Shrew Survey: Ballets

The Taming of the Shrew does not often join La Fille Mal Gardée on the list of great ballets with spanking scenes. The standard 1969 version by John Cranko contains much exciting dance and some rough wooing…

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but none of it involves Petruchio taking Katherina across his knee. Similarly, the 2014 version choreographed for the Bolshoi by Jean-Christophe Maillot has some promising moments…

shrew ballet 2016 Bolshoi

and Petruchio does indeed seem provoked…

shrew ballet 2016 Bolshoi 0

but the consequence turns out to be:

shrew ballet 2016 Bolshoi 1

Wrong way up, Petruchio!

But ballet Petruchios don’t always disappoint. Goodbye, Cranko and Maillot, and step forward Stephen Mills, artistic director of Ballet Austin, Texas, who was commissioned in 2004 to create a Shrew ballet for a young audiences program at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. In fact, he didn’t much care for their choice of material, reasoning that, since ballet is an art form mainly enjoyed by women, a misogynistic story about how a woman needs to be tamed by a man might not play well with his regular audience. But on the other hand, nobody turns down the Kennedy Center. So he chose to play up the sparky physical comedy, and drew on influences from commedia dell’arte to Kiss Me Kate. You will be able to guess one of the things he drew from the latter, a prospect made all the more enticing by the way Kate is costumed in this version:

Ballet Austin

The dancer who created the role of Kate was Allisyn Paino, and here she is dancing it again in the 2007 revival at Ballet Austin, with Jim Stein as Petruchio:

Ballet Austin Shrew Allisyn Paino

Ballet Austin Shrew 1Ballet Austin Shrew 2

And here’s the alternate cast from that 2007 production, Paul Michael Bloodgood as Petruchio and Aara Krumpe giving an exceptionally energetic performance as Kate:

Austin Ballet Shrew Aare Krumpe 2

Austin Ballet Shrew Aare KrumpeAustin Ballet Shrew Aare Krumpe 3

Now, it’s fair to say that it’s unlikely to get better than a Petruchio/Kate spanking on red panties, but Stephen Mills does have some competition, much of it in Europe…

In the early 1990s, Hungarian Laszlo Seregi (1929-2012), famous for his ballet versions of Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, had a near-fatal heart attack. How could he repay the doctor who saved his life? Please create another Shakespeare ballet, asked the doctor. Seregi obliged with A Makrancos Kata (Unruly Kate), which premiered in 1994.

Although there are a few more lifts from Kiss Me Kate, Seregi’s approach was quite unlike that of Stephen Mills, in that Kate isn’t the one who gets spanked. Instead, the Hungarian version followed the alternative stage tradition of Bianca spanking:

Seregi 2003 production

The original Kate and Bianca were Katalin Hagai and Katalin Volf:

And in 2003, here’s another outing for Hagai as Kate, this time giving a slightly more assertive spanking to Erika Soos as Bianca:

Still in the Balkans, the Serbian National Ballet produced a new version at Belgrade in 2009, choreographed by Kuroslav Simic. This was another where Bianca was the one at risk, courtesy of her shrewish sister. At the premiere, Mila Dragicevic was Kate and Tamara Ivanovic got spanked, fluttering her legs and beating her palms on the floor while the girls’ father tried ineffectually to intervene. Here’s the scene in rehearsal…

2009 Ukrocena goropad rehearsal a

and here it is in performance, with Bianca showing a lot more leg:

2009 Ukrocena goropad shrew ballet

But will there ever be another Petruchio/Kate spanking in ballet? Thanks to the German choreographer Ralf Rossa, the answer is yes. His adaptation was first performed at Halle in 2014, and featured a Kate and Petruchio uncharacteristically attired in blue. Though at this particular moment, Kate’s blue skirt is obviously not exactly where she’d like it to be:

Michal Sedlacek as Petruchio; Ludi Dutriez as Kate

Michal Sedlacek as Petruchio; Ludi Dutriez as Kate

It seems that, notwithstanding the dominance of Cranko and the heavy coverage of Maillot, the world of ballet hasn’t entirely turned its back on the heady tradition of Shrew spanking.

One thought on “Shrew Survey: Ballets

  1. jimc says:

    it is always great when ballet or theatre does come close to a movie spanking or something for a spanko. I love the research and the clips you have added on this article. Quite a lot of excellent spanking positions and spanking as well. Thanks for sharing and have a great day.
    Jim

    Like

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